Epidemiological studies have shown excess winter mortality particularly in older age groups where older persons, particularly men over 60 years, are less able to maintain core temperature during a given cold challenge compared to younger individuals. Exposure to cold temperatures and impairment of thermoregulation can lead to decreased core temperatures, direct effects such as hypothermia (core temperature below 35°C) and indirect effects such as frostbite, pneumonia and influenza.
The winter season brings with it a few challenges and health-related risks, especially for the elderly. We are here to present you with a list of tips and best practices so you can make certain that you avoid common cold weather-related problems this winter.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shahid Shafi, Consultant Internal Medicine at Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, suggested the following tips for protection from ill effects of cold on human health:
1. Stay warm by adequate layers of clothing and use of heating appliances.
2. Stay active. Cold weather often keeps us indoors and limits physical exercise. This is associated with bone loss. Handy exercises indoors can prevent bone loss
3. Stay hydrated. Cold weather often decreases thirst and elders tend to take less fluid. We need to ensure that they are taking enough fluids.
4. Proper foot wears to prevent falls which can be dangerous in elderly and cause hip and spine fracture.
5. Winter depression can be prevented by communicating with the elderly regularly.
6. Nutritious diet – A proper diet with good vitamin D is essential for maintenance of proper health
Adding to the list of tips on how to protect yourself from cold wave, Dr RR Dutta, HOD Internal Medicine at Paras Hospitals in Gurugram, recommended:
1. Elders are generally encouraged to utilise heat radiators to manage their ambient temperature, dress in layers of heavy woolens, or stay inside during particularly cold weather since as we age, our bodies become poorer at withstanding low temperatures.
2. For the body to work smoothly and properly, it is crucial to keep it active in addition to keeping it warm. Winters are the best season for extended bedtimes, but exercise and physical activity will help you sweat and remove toxins while maintaining healthy skin.
3. Since the first parts of the body to feel cold are the fingers, earlobes, toes, and tip of the nose, it is advisable to wear gloves and warm hats to protect your head, ears, and hands from the elements. Before settling in under additional covers, put on socks and a pajama with two layers.
4. While many of us view water as our adversary during the winter, it is necessary to keep the body hydrated. The dryness might draw water from the body because the air already lacks moisture. Moisturizer can also be used to maintain healthy skin.
5. Throughout the year, a lot of us crave something sweet after every meal, and this propensity grows dramatically during the winter, which can raise blood sugar levels and lead to issues.
6. Winter is a time when many people get drowsy and lazy, especially the elderly. However, it’s crucial to resist the impulse to lay in bed all day and instead stay active.
7. Anyone’s health can be impacted by spending a lot of time outside in this chilly weather, not only the elderly.
8. As sunlight is the finest source of vitamin D, get as much sun as you can. Although it could be tempting, warming up and toasting yourself might wake you up.
Dr RR Dutta concluded, “We have all been subjected to temperature extremes and air pollution due to the rapidly lowering mercury and breaking of prior records. Older people are especially more susceptible since they catch infections more easily in hostile environments and have to deal with worsened comorbidity symptoms. This is due to the fact that elderly people lose body heat more quickly and are less aware of when a cold front will arrive or when their body temperature may suddenly drop below normal, resulting in hypothermia. This may result in organ damage and a heart attack.”